Forests - threats

Around the world, lush tropical forests are being logged for timber and pulp, cleared to grow food, and destroyed by the impacts of climate change. Four fifths of the forest that covered almost half of the Earth's land surface eight thousand years ago have already been irreplaceably degraded or destroyed.

Cattle Paths in the Amazon

Every two seconds, an area of forest the size of a football pitch is lost due to logging or destructive practices. Seventy two per cent of Indonesia's intact forest landscapes and 15 per cent of the Amazon's have already been lost forever. Now the Congo's forests face the same threat.

While the causes vary from region to region, they all have one thing in common: human activity. Through agriculture and logging, mining and climate change, humankind is wiping out irreplaceable forests - and the life that depends on them - at a terrifying pace.

View of the Amazon from above. This 1645 hectare area has been logged to plant soy.

Agri-business is responsible for massive rainforest destruction as forests are burned to make way for cattle ranches, or cleared for palm oil or soya plantations. In this way, irreplaceable rainforests are converted into products that are used to make toothpaste, chocolate and animal feed.

Industrial logging for timber, pulp and paper has also devastated much of the world's rainforests. Not only are ancient trees cut down on a vast scale, but unplanned and inefficient practices lead to enormous additional wastage. And, by building roads into pristine rainforests, the logging industry opens them up to secondary effects like human settlement, hunting, fuel-wood gathering and agriculture.

Today, forests face another threat. Deforestation contributes to climate change (overall, it accounts for one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions - which is why Indonesia is the world's third largest greenhouse gas emitter and Brazil the fourth). At the same time, climate change itself threatens forests on a terrifying scale.

Rising global temperatures damage and kill trees, and increase drought and forest fires. Dying trees release still more carbon, which further increases our global temperature. This cycle of forest collapse represents a critical feedback loop that could drive warming for centuries, change life cycles on Earth, and usher in a sweeping transformation of human civilisation. The surest way to stop it is to end deforestation.

Pristine forests near Manokwari in West Papua, the last frontier of intact ancient forest in Indonesia

Greenpeace is campaigning for zero deforestation globally by 2020 because protecting forests is one of the quickest and most effective ways to prevent climate change, protect biodiversity and defend the rights of forest communities.

To realise this vision, the international community, corporations, forest communities and individuals in consumer countries will need to work together in an unprecedented, concerted effort. You can read more about the solutions to forest destruction here.

The latest updates


10 shocking facts show how companies are still trashing Indonesia’s forests

Blog entry by Danielle Boobyer | 23 November, 2015

For months, forest fires raged across Indonesia bringing the world's attention to the country's devastating forest destruction. Both people and orang-utans were endangered as the fires raged and a thick, choking haze swept across...

Uprooting illegal logging: From the Amazon to the EU

Blog entry by An Lambrechts | 20 November, 2015

Illegal logging in the Brazilian Amazon is vast in scale and scope – impacting both rainforest communities and crucial habitat. This past August – during my first visit to the Brazilian Amazon – my Brazilian colleagues visited the...

Under Fire

Publication | 19 November, 2015 at 8:00

Indonesia’s fire crisis, the result of decades of wholesale forest and peatland destruction, has put Indonesia’s plantation industries in the global spotlight. Global consumer companies and traders must face up to their role in fuelling this...

Herakles Farms project rears its ugly head again

Blog entry by Amy Moas and Eric Ini | 18 November, 2015

When Greenpeace Africa and ally NGOs first introduced you to Herakles Farms and its palm oil project in Cameroon (known locally as SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon or SGSOC), the US company had grand and destructive ambitions. Even...

Dam collapse in Brazil destroys towns and turns river into muddy wasteland

Blog entry by Bruno Weis | 17 November, 2015 9 comments

On Thursday, November 5th, two dams holding millions of cubic meters of mining waste gave way – launching one of the worst environmental disasters in Brazilian history. Over 25,000 Olympic swimming pools worth of mud –...

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